Ocean depths giant caught on film

Scientists have filmed an elusive giant squid, believed to be up to 8m long, that roams the depths of the Pacific Ocean.

Japan's National Science Museum filmed the deep-sea creature in its natural habitat for the first time, working with Japanese public broadcaster NHK and the Discovery Channel in the United States.

The massive invertebrate is the stuff of legend. Sightings of a huge ocean-dwelling beast have reported by sailors for centuries.

The creature is thought to be the genesis of the Nordic legend of the Kraken, a sea monster believed to have attacked ships in waters off Scandinavia over the past millennium.

Modern scientists used a deep-water submarine to carry them into the dark and cold depths of the northern Pacific Ocean, where at around 630m they filmed a 3m specimen.

After about 100 missions, during which they spent 400 hours in the cramped submarine, the three-man crew tracked the creature from a spot around 15km east of Chichi Island.

Museum researcher Tsunemi Kubodera says they followed the enormous mollusc to a depth of 900m as it swam into the ocean abyss.

NHK showed film of the silver-coloured creature, which had huge black eyes, as it swam against the current, holding a bait squid in its arms.

For Mr Kubodera it was the culmination of a lengthy quest for the beast.

"It was shining and so beautiful," he said. "I was so thrilled when I saw it first-hand, but I was confident we would because we rigorously researched the areas we might find it, based on past data."

Mr Kubodera said the creature's two longest arms were missing. He estimated it would have been 8m long had it been complete.

He says the film his team took is the first of a live giant squid in its natural habitat - the depths of the sea where there is little oxygen and the weight of the water above exerts enormous pressure.

Mr Kubodera also took what he says was the first film of a live giant squid, in 2006, but only after it was hooked and brought to the surface.

"Researchers around the world have tried to film giant squid in their natural habitats, but all attempts were in vain before," he said.

"With this footage we hope to discover more about the life of the species."

He planned to publish his findings soon.

Mr Kubodera says the two sightings of the squid were both in the same area around 1000km south of Tokyo.

The giant squid - Architeuthis to scientists - is sometimes described as one of the last mysteries of the ocean, being part of a world so hostile to humans that it has been little explored.

Researchers say Architeuthis eats other types of squid and grenadier, a species of fish that lives in the deep ocean. They say it can grow to be longer than 10m.

- AFP

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